Joint Staff Consultative Committee Minutes

Wednesday, 26th March, 2014
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor Tom Brindley (Chairman) Councillor Judi Billing, Councillor Fiona Hill, Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham and Councillor Lawrence Oliver.
In attendance:
Acting Senior Lawyer
Corporate Human Resources Manager
Human Resources Development Manager
Employee Relations Officer
Committee and Member Services Officer
Also Present:
Dee Levett - UNISON
Sharon Forde - UNISON
Christina Corr - Staff Consultation Forum
Item Description/Decision
Apologies for absence were received from the Strategic Director of Customer Services and Chris Carter. Councillor Hill informed the Committee that she would have to leave for an appointment at approximately 4pm.
It was agreed that the Minutes of the JSCC meeting held on 18 September 2013 be confirmed as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
No other business was put forward for discussion at this Meeting.
The Chairman welcomed all Members and officers to this meeting of the Joint Staff Consultative Committee, the last one before the end of the Civic Year 2013/2014.

He then read out the following statement:

‘Members were reminded that any declarations of interest in respect of any business set out in the agenda, should be declared as either a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or Declarable Interest and they are required to notify the Chairman of the nature of any interest declared at the commencement of the relevant item on the agenda. Members declaring a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest must withdraw from the meeting for the duration of the item. Members declaring a Declarable Interest which requires they leave the room under Paragraph 7.4 of the Code of Conduct, can speak on the item, but must leave the room before the debate and vote.’
The Acting Senior Lawyer (ASL) introduced himself and was welcomed by the Chairman. He presented the report of the Monitoring Officer and requested the Joint Staff Consultative Committee (JSCC) to consider changes made in line with legislative developments arising in 2013, and to provide him with feedback on the minor amendments proposed, prior to consideration by Cabinet.

He informed the Committee that they were one of several Committees to be consulted, and that this Reporting Code had already been to the trade union (UNISON) and the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee for comment. The ASL confirmed that the trade union had been supportive and that so far, no reports had been made under the Whistleblowing Policy since its introduction.

On being asked by a Member of the Committee whether there were any key points to change the spirit of the Code, the ASL commented that the update related only to minor changes in the law including the public interest test and to provide reassurance to anyone making a report under the code that they will not suffer any detriment. The Chairman pointed out the need for protocol on page 7 - security being for the Monitoring Officer (MO) only, and asked for information on the fallback position. He also asked for the meaning of “appropriate legal disclosure” under Your Legal Rights on page 8 and was told that it meant disclosures made “in the public interest”.

Following further queries by the Committee, the ASL offered clarification and was thanked by the Chairman for his presentation and for answering the Committee’s questions.

It was agreed: That the minor amendments to the Confidential Reporting Policy, prior to its consideration by Cabinet, be endorsed.

To ensure good governance within the Council.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) referred the JSCC to the Minutes of the meetings of the Staff Consultation Forum (SCF) held on 8 January, 5 February and 5 March 2014, for details of the meetings, actions taken and the items carried forward.

The CHRM provided a summary of the main points from each meeting as follows:

8 January 2014
The CHRM referred to the update of the Professional Vocational Training Policy and also touched on the Employment Updates Policy.

Under NHDC Update and the Council’s budget position for 2014/2015, a major area of importance was the Budget update. On asking what “Channel Migration” meant under the projects initiated by the Senior Management Team, the Committee were informed that using the internet would cut the cost of face-to-face meetings with officers of the Council.

The subject of the re-establishment of an Officer Group to be involved in Office Accommodation was raised, and the need for a member of the Staff Consultation Forum to represent SCF on the Group. Chris Carter volunteered to represent SCF on the Office Accommodation Officer Group.

Regarding the Joint Health & Safety/SCF Group Meeting, the CHRM revealed that joint meetings had been tried, but it was agreed that they did not work as well as had been hoped and the trial should come to an end.

Finally, Any Other Business raised the issue of the NHDC Staff Survey, which was currently live, and forewarned that an Investors in People (IiP) assessment would be carried out on 16 June 2014.

5 February 2014
The CHRM declared that the Senior Management Team and Senior Managers had already been consulted and the peak office hours should be adequately covered by teams. Managers will be monitoring employees’ time input and IT would be working on reports for managers.

In response to a question about dress code, the CHRM said that the current Dress Code, as set out in the Employee Code of Conduct still applied. It had been decided that it was better than being prescriptive about individual items of clothing. The Chairman then requested clarification on the different levels of management referred to and this was explained to him. The CHRM stated that this was to show a good level of communication.

Finally, the Committee briefly discussed the Staff Information Directory (SID), emphasising that staff could update their own details on this. The HRDM offered to train the Chairman on SID.

5 March 2014
Under the subject of Matters Arising from the Last Meeting, it was confirmed that cleanliness in the toilets on the ground floor and the slow working of the cisterns, had been rectified. These would now be regularly monitored.

The CHRM reminded the Forum that March was the last payroll that would run on Trent. Human Resources had run a comparison during January and more checks during February, to ensure that every payslip has been co-related. She revealed that there had been difficulties with the IT provision of the new system. Staff and managers require training on the new payroll system and this would be arranged shortly. Contingency plans were in place in case things to not go to plan.

The CHRM touched briefly on the Minutes relating to Office Accommodation and Employee Queries.

Finally the question of Global Emails not being received by some people when they are forwarded, was raised. It was confirmed that Global Emails, when forwarded, do not always reach all Members.

It was agreed: That the information provided in the above sets of Minutes of the Staff Consultation Forum be noted.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) presented the Committee with the latest quarterly update on the progress made to the People Strategy 2011-2015 Report, which also incorporated the Council’s Workforce Development Plan.

Considering the recent project highlights since December 2013, it was confirmed that the usual updates would be given on progress made, and that the designing of a bespoke online application form would be a subset of the new payroll system commencing on 1 April 2014.

There had been a good take-up of the vaccinations offered against influenza and ‘flu absence was down by 50% against last year’s figures.

However, over the year from February 2013 to January 2014, short-term absence statistics had increased slightly.

It was agreed: That the progress against the People Strategy and HR People Strategy Work Plan for 2013/2014 be noted.

To support the achievement of the Authority’s key priorities.
The Chairman, Councillor Tom Brindley, declared a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in this Agenda item, as he is a member of the Local Government Pension Scheme. He stated that he would stay in the room and continue to Chair the meeting during this update.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) went through the National Pay Bargaining section of the report, which revealed that a pay claim had also been submitted for Chief Officers. She stated that she would keep the Committee updated on the progress of this pay claim, as well as the claim for the other NHDC employees.

The Committee was informed that on 28 February employees were notified that the trade union was preparing for a ballot on industrial action. After consultation, employers made an offer of 1%, which they consider affordable.

On the subject of Pensions, the CHRM declared that there would be big changes from April 2014. One key change would be auto enrolment, where all employees would be automatically enrolled for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) in April, and if they did not want this, would have to contact the London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA) to opt out.

One option that might tempt employees to stay in the scheme was the 50:50 option, in which employees could pay half the standard pension contributions and receive half the standard pension. Some other benefits would apply in full, and Death in Service would amount to 3 times an employee’s salary.

It was agreed: That the Pensions and National Pay Bargaining Update be noted.
The Employee Relations Officer (ERO) presented the report of the Corporate Human Resources Manager, which covered the period from January to December 2013. She explained that turnover had decreased significantly and national figures were lagging behind those of North Herts District Council.

According to the analysis carried out, the trend during this period was that the age group with the largest number leaving was 55 to 64, and 25% of resignations came from those employees aged between 25 and 44 years. Analysis showed that the percentage of females who left due to redundancy (61%) was less than the percentage of females in the overall Council (68%). The main reason for voluntary resignations was job dissatisfaction. An exit questionnaire was still used for employees taking redundancy. The only unchanging statistic was age.

The question of the meaning of “protected characteristics” relating to minority groups was raised, and it was explained that this referred to nationality, age, sex etc.

The Chairman asked whether any change had been noticed since the changes to no default retirement age and was told that 3% of NHDC staff are aged 65 years or over.

In conclusion, the CHRM declared that it is possible for anybody aged between 58 and 60 years to retire with reductions to their pension. Flexible retirement had now been introduced to allow people to consider working part-time in lower grade roles as they head into retirement.

It was agreed: That the update on retention and the progress with equalities in relation to the employees of North Herts District Council be noted.
The Human Resources Development Manager (HRDM) presented the Discussion Paper on Outplacement Support. She explained that ‘outplacement’ is the term used when an organisation is reorganising, and people’s jobs are at risk of redundancy and it includes practical activities and support organised to help cope with the impact of losing their job and to prepare for future employment.

She went through the paper and stressed that the Council has a responsibility to avoid redundancy, but employees who have been given notice of redundancy will be allowed a reasonable amount of paid time off from work to seek other work, or to arrange for training for future employment.

The list of various activities and support available is designed to help an individual generally, supplying broad assistance, not just to look for further employment. It is also possible to obtain feedback from staff who have left the Council and this can be a positive experience.

The Committee discussed the paper and considered how people will react differently to assistance offered. Some may not feel that the time is right for it due to the impact of changes, while others will look at it as a positive step to go on to better things and take advantage of the help that is offered.

The HRDM explained that support was offered to interns and fixed term contract workers, not just to staff who are retiring or being made redundant. The company used to deliver training and retirement workshops had been the Herts Careers Service, but they were now called Realised Futures.

The Committee finished by discussing tailoring people’s skills to the opportunities and employment available at the time.
After some debate, the subjects chosen for discussion at the next meeting on 25 June 2014 were “The Staff Satisfaction Survey” and “Employment Tribunal”.

The Chairman concluded the meeting by thanking all staff and Members for attending this last Meeting of the Joint Staff Consultative Committee for the Civic Year 2013/2014.
Published on Monday, 12th May, 2014